July 10, 1962. On the same day that the NBA agreed to let George Steinbrenner’s ABL Cleveland Pipers join as an expansion team, Major League Baseball played the first of two Midsummer Classics.
It would be the final year that the two leagues would play more than one All-Star exhibition game. For the past 3 years, the Players Association had used the two All-Star games to help support the players’ pension fund. The American League had argued that they would no longer participate in two exhibitions during the previous winter; however the two leagues came to an agreement to go ahead with both contests in 1962.
These long lost kinescope reels (which constitute the most complete All-Star Game broadcast prior to 1965) give us a glimpse into Midsummer Classic that features a sitting President, an All-Star Game legend, an exciting game and a rare glimpse into a classic stadium.
The first reel kicks off with a Texaco commercial complete with ‘the man with the star’. The broadcast begins with Joe Garagiola inviting us into District of Columbia Stadium (later to be renamed RFK Stadium). Like most NBC broadcasts of the 50s/60s, there are numerous establishing shots showcasing the dimensions of the ballpark.
Garagiola had joined NBC in 1961 and this would be the first and only All-Star Game he would work with Mel Allen. The two had worked the television booth of the 1961 World Series. In a twist of fate, Garagiola would be the man who would replace Allen in 1964 on Yankees broadcasts when Allen was abruptly fired.
It is bittersweet that the pregame of this game takes up the first 2/3rds of the first reel. You miss more game action; however you get to enjoy the pregame ceremonies as they appeared on the original broadcast. We are treated to player introductions featuring the stars you would expect: Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Clemente, Banks and of course, Stan Musial. This was the 19th year Musial was named an All-Star. He would finish his career in 1963 with one final All-Star Game appearance.
Some of the younger pitchers who would dominate the rest of the decade that are announced are Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. Only Drysdale and Marichal would appear in the game.
There are two highlights to the first reel. The first of which is the ceremonial first pitch. At the stadium that day is President John F. Kennedy. NBC does not miss a beat in using a picture in picture box to interpose the American flag and the President as the Star Spangled Banner echoes in the background.
The first pitch ceremony is extended a bit as Kennedy requested to meet with Musial who had campaigned for him during the previous election. Musial had told Bob Broeg of the Post-Dispatch that if he got the chance to speak with the President, he would remind him of their meeting two years prior in Milwaukee. There, Kennedy joked with Musial that “they say you are too old to play baseball and I am too young to be President”. Musial joked with the President on this July day, “I guess they were wrong about both of us.” This meeting would produce one of the most famous photos of Musial, one he sold until his death.
The other highlight of the first reel is the Roberto Clemente at-bat. In it, he ropes a line drive off of Jim Bunning to the right-fielder Mickey Mantle. As Mantle is a little slow coming up with the ball, Clemente with his trademark zest takes second base turning a routine single into a hard earned double. The reel ends as the players leave the field in the middle of the 1st.
The second reel available of this game is actually Reel 3, which covers the bottom of the 3rd through the 5th inning. We miss the first two innings of Don Drysdale’s pitching, but see him work around a triple in the 3rd. Replacing him in the 4th is Juan Marichal in his first All-Star Game. Featured are at-bats by Luis Aparicio, Willie Mays, Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and Ken Boyer.
This is a fun moment that only the All-Star Game and World Series used to provide. Juan Marichal against Mickey Mantle. Just three months later, Mantle and Marichal would lock up again in Game 4 of the classic 1962 World Series. Marichal would strikeout Mantle twice in the four innings he pitched before smashing his thumb trying to get down a sacrifice bunt. Marichal would go on the disabled list, miss the rest of a series that saw two games postponed of which he most certainly would have pitched at least one other time.
The reel ends at the conclusion of the 5th inning.
The reels for the remainder of the game are missing, leaving us without a glimpse of Stan Musial’s final All-Star game hit. Maury Wills would enter the game as a pinch runner for him and put on a show that would earn him the first All-Star Game MVP award. Replacing Musial as a baserunner, Wills stole 2nd and scored on a Dick Groat single. In the 8th, Wills would single and go first to third on a Jim Davenport single to left. Felipe Alou would follow with a foul flyball down the RF line and a tagging Wills would score the games 3rd and final run.
A quirky aside: when I wrote about the 1965 All-Star broadcast, I made mention of Willie Mays wearing a Cubs batting helmet. Here in the 1962, Mays forgoes a helmet and simply wears his cap to the plate.
The broadcast showcases a number of camera angles: the CF camera, behind home camera, third base high camera, first base high camera. Advances like picture-in-picture make an appearance. The on-screen graphics are similar to those you would see in all the early 60’s NBC broadcasts with player name card transparencies and the between inning score transparency.
With these copies being available in trading circles, it is hard to determine the quality of the original reels. Almost assuredly an archive copy would give a stronger picture. These copies, however, I would rate between a 6 or 7. The runtime of the game was nearly two and a half hours, so the kinescope would potentially be a five reel recording. Having 40% of the broadcast is a treat but the disjointed nature of missing a reel in between takes a little bit away from the viewing experience. On the other hand, I would trade finding that missing 2nd reel for the 4th reel instead which featured Musial and most of the scoring.
Enjoy tonight's All-Star Game. This 1962 game featured 18 HOF players. It will be interesting to see how many players from tonight's game eventually end up in Cooperstown.